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Coal miner killed in Marshall County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A worker was killed early Friday afternoon at a CONSOL Energy operation in Marshall County, officials said. It was the sixth West Virginia coal-mining death so far in 2013.

The miner suffered a head injury and died on the way to the hospital, said Leslie Fitzwater, spokeswoman for the state Office of Miners' Health, Safety and Training.

The incident occurred shortly before 1 p.m. at Pittsburgh-based CONSOL's McElroy Mine near Moundsville, Fitzwater said.

CONSOL spokeswoman Lynn Seay identified the worker as Roger R. King, 62, of Moundsville. King, a senior longwall maintenance coordinator, began his CONSOL career in 1969 and had worked at McElroy for 17 years, Seay said.

Few details were being released Friday evening, but sources said preliminary information indicated that King was hit in the head when a conveyor chain broke during the final stages of moving the mine's longwall mining machine to a new location.

Jesse Lawder, a spokesman for the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration, said MSHA had "been informed of an incident" at the mine and that agency personnel "have been dispatched to the scene."

"MSHA cannot yet confirm any further details," Lawder said.

MSHA officials have furloughed more than half of their staff as part of the ongoing federal government shutdown.

Lawder said that MSHA has inspected the McElroy operation since the government shutdown began earlier this week, but he could not immediately provide any details.

Seay said the company notified federal and state mining officials and "is working closely with them to determine the cause of the incident."

McElroy, with nearly 1,000 workers last year and 2012 coal production of 9.4 million tons, is the largest coal mine in West Virginia, according to federal data.

During the second quarter of 2012, the underground mine reported 890 underground workers and another 67 workers at its preparation plant and related surface operations. The mine produced 2.1 million tons of coal in the quarter, according to data CONSOL reported to MSHA.

The United Mine Workers union represents hourly workers at McElroy.

In March, the McElroy operation was given West Virginia's top award for underground mine safety, as part of the Mountaineer Guardian Awards that are co-sponsored by the West Virginia Coal Association and the state mine safety office.

Also in March, at the same coal association meeting, CONSOL President Nicholas DeIuliis gave a speech calling for the industry to do more to prevent all mining deaths and injuries.

"We can't be satisfied with just incremental improvements," DeIuliis said during a speech to the association's 40th Annual Mining Symposium. "The only acceptable result for everyone in the industry and everyone in the room should be zero fatalities and zero injuries."

At the time of the speech, CONSOL had experienced two deaths at its operations in West Virginia in the previous three months, one at its Loveridge underground mine in February, and another at a slurry impoundment at its Robinson Run operation in late November 2012. Both operations are in Marion County.

Seay said CONSOL notified federal and state mining officials and "is working closely with them to determine the cause of the incident."

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with Mr. King's family and loved ones during this difficult time," Seay said. "It is our priority to prevent events like this one from ever happening and we continue to strive for a workplace experience of zero accidents."

Seay said that McElroy operations has ceased and would reopen at 12:01 a.m. Sunday.

Shortly after the mine safety office confirmed word of Friday's fatality, Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's office issued a statement that quoted the governor saying, "It is a terrible tragedy when the dangers that can accompany mining result in the loss of life. This miner and his family remain in the prayers and thoughts of Joanne and I, just as they surely do with all West Virginians."

West Virginia leads the nation with six coal-mining deaths in 2013. Nationwide, Friday's death was the 15th so far this year in the industry.

Reach Ken Ward Jr. at kward@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1702. 


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